High-Level Leaders Call for Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

September 23, 2014  • Alexa Wahl

Contact: Elise Mann
Senior Program Associate
Global Health and Development
The Aspen Institute
202- 322-8142 | [email protected]

Halonen, Banda, Clark, Kaseba-Sata and others gather concurrent to 69th UNGA today

New York, NY, September 23, 2014 – Global leaders call on decision-makers at the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly to make sexual and reproductive health and rights a priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Leaders will gather on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. at the Westin New York Grand Central Hotel for a high-level event. Speakers include: 

  • Her Excellency Tarja Halonen, Co-Chair, High-Level Task Force for ICPD; Former President, Finland
  • Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, Former President, Malawi
  • The Right Honorable Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme
  • Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, First Lady, Republic of Zambia
  • The Honorable Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia
  • Kathy Calvin, President and CEO, United Nations Foundation
  • Samuel Kissi, Curious Minds Ghana
  • Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO, Global Fund for Women
  • Dr. Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS
  • The Honorable Joy Phumaphi, Former Minister of Health, Botswana; Chair, Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health

Speakers will emphasize the foundational role of SRHR in advancing sustainable development. “Sexual and reproductive health and rights must be affirmed as a non-negotiable foundation of the post-2015 agenda. We cannot afford otherwise,” says Tarja Halonen. “It’s common sense. Unless these rights are fully realized, progress towards eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development will continue to be undermined.”

SRHR encompass the most basic and private aspects of human life –  rights to make decisions about one’s own body, sexuality, relationships, marriage and childbearing, without any form of discrimination, coercion or violence.  Fulfilling such rights is a “force multiplier” that enables women, girls, and young people to complete their education, get better jobs with better wages, and rise to their full potential in economic, political, and social life.

In too many places around the world, progress on sexual and reproductive rights is lagging. Legal barriers, insufficient services and resources contribute to 85 million unintended pregnancies and 20 million unsafe abortions each year, and every day 800 women and girls die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.  Young people face unique risks. Maternal mortality is the leading cause of death for adolescent girls in many countries, and 2,400 young people acquire HIV every day. One in three women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and up to 1/3 of women report their first sexual experience was forced. The cost of inaction will not only weigh heavily on the lives of individuals and families, but also drain health systems, public budgets and economic productivity.  However these are preventable problems with proven, cost-effective solutions. It is not a question of know-how, it’s a matter of political will.

“Looking back, we can celebrate the enormous progress made on issues like poverty and safe drinking water. Certainly, the MDGs and other global agreements have played an important role in that progress, by setting standards and holding governments accountable,” adds Joy Phumaphi. “As we think about the future of development, the future of our shared world, sexual and reproductive health and rights must be at the top of the global agenda.”

“Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a global opportunity and a global obligation,” says Kathy Calvin. “In doing so, we can empower girls and women, promote human rights, improve global health, spur economic growth, build stronger societies, and in turn, create a better world for us all.”

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Photos and video will be available following the event. Interviews with leaders can be arranged upon request. A limited number of press passes are available. For more information and to register, please contact [email protected].

The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, established by The Aspen Institute, is composed of sixteen sitting and former heads of state, high-level policymakers and other leaders who build political leadership to support reproductive health. The Council increases awareness of reproductive health issues, supports the effective use of donor resources, and champions policies dedicated to achieving universal access to reproductive health.

The High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was established in October 2012 as an independent body to provide a bold, progressive voice for advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, especially for those living in poverty and otherwise marginalized, and to advance gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, and the rights and participation of young people in the ICPD Beyond 2014 and Post-2015 Development Agenda processes.

United Nations Foundation links the UN’s work with others around the world, mobilizing the energy and expertise of business and non-governmental organizations to help the UN tackle issues including climate change, global health, peace and security, women’s empowerment, poverty eradication, energy access, and U.S.-UN relations.

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